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Choosing a Twin Cities Builder: Questions You Need To Ask

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Choosing a Minneapolis builder is a difficult task. With so many options, it’s hard to know where to find them, and once you do… how to choose.

Building a home is a dream for some, and a “never” for others. If it’s your dream, don’t let it turn into a nightmare by assuming you found the perfect builder without asking them a few questions. It could help you avoid disaster down the road.

Does this builder have an in-house draftsman?

The entire point of building a new home is to make sure it’s built in a way that allows your family to use and enjoy the property exactly the way that works best for you. Having an in-house draftsman can make all the difference. 

Let’s take a look at a situation where an in-house draftsman does NOT exist. You meet with the builder and either choose a floor plan they’ve built before or one you’ve found online. You may sit down and make some changes with a red marker, like moving a wall here, adding a closet there. 

That marked up floor plan is taken to a draftsman that likely works for many, many other builders in the area and two or three weeks later you receive the new floor plan. If it’s the perfect floor plan for you and your budget then you’re all set.

If not, you set another meeting to make changes on paper and wait another two or three weeks for the next revision. Do you see how this process can be frustrating and drawn out (pun intended)? 

Now let’s take a look at what happens when your chosen builder DOES have an in-house draftsman. You choose a plan that has the most of what you’re looking for, knowing you definitely want to make some changes.

Next, you’ll sit down with the builder, your Realtor, and the draftsman in front of a computer and watch as the draftsman stretches and tweaks your new home to perfection.

In this meeting, you can make countless changes and see them instantly while taking advice from the professional whose job it is to make this plan come to fruition. 

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Will this builder carry the construction loan?

If the answer is no, you’ll have some extra paperwork and hassle to deal with throughout the construction process. Arranging for subcontractors to be paid out periodically throughout the process is complicated at best and isn’t something most homebuyers think of when they envision building their dream home. 

If your builder routinely covers the construction loan and collects the land and building price at the end, you’ll have a closing process very similar to an existing home. This makes your life easier and having the option to take that off of your plate during a new build process is priceless. 

What down payment is required to start the building process?

The down payment I’m referring to isn’t the type of down payment you’re used to hearing about in an existing transaction. When you buy an existing home, your down payment is paid at closing but with new construction, the builder often requires a portion of the down payment prior to commencement of construction. Most of the time, this is non-refundable. 

How does this builder track changes?

The new construction process is a delicate one and making changes can create a domino effect in terms of scheduling delays. Worst case, a change isn’t possible once you’ve reached a certain stage of construction. 

Having a system in place for making such changes is highly encouraged. It’s best if this particular system allows you to communicate effectively with the builder and/or sub contractors about if the change is possible, how it will affect the timeline, and what the potential cost would be.

Once you’ve got a viable change everyone has agreed upon, it should be in writing, signed by all parties, and added to the purchase agreement. 

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Will this builder allow me to choose my own Realtor?

It’s common for builders to have dedicated “Builder Reps” who work exclusively with them in the marketing and selling of their model and custom homes. It’s important to note that it’s YOUR CHOICE who represents you and builder reps are required to keep their builder’s best interests in mind. If you really love the builder rep you meet by all means go with them to represent you – but know it’s always, always, always your choice who represents you and looks out for your best interests – and if a builder isn’t allowing that, how does that change how you feel about it?

How will this builder communicate with me?

Seems like an obvious question to ask, but this is the single thing that makes or breaks the new build process. Building your dream home is supposed to be a fun and exciting time.

Because there are so many moving parts during this process, a breakdown of communication can cause the entire transaction to implode, ruining your experience. 

The most common answer to this question will be they are available by phone or email 24/7 and/or you can contact their assistant anytime. This isn’t the answer you’re looking for, though. 

Look for a builder that has a system in place for keeping in touch with you, recording all changes, paperwork, communications between all parties, and a way for you to understand what’s happening when.

The system I’m referring to would most likely be software that accomplishes the above items and keeps everyone in sync and well informed from beginning to end. 

What allowances are included in the final price?

The ability of a builder to break down the final price of your dream home into finite details is imperative. It cannot be overstated that in one of the largest transactions of your life, you need to know exactly what you’re paying for. No detail is too small in this regard. 

The typical list of allowances you may see will include things like appliances, flooring, lighting, and plumbing. But does the price include gutters, base line materials, cheap doors, or upgraded trim and cabinetry?

These details matter to your bottom line now and when you resell this home so consider it a red flag if a builder cannot provide you with a document detailing the cost of every little part of your home. 

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Can this Minneapolis builder provide references?

Just as you may have asked friends and family for a reference to find the right Realtor, you’ve got to do some research with your builder.

If they’re able to provide you with a few past clients’ names and contact information, consider it a good sign they’re confident in their level of customer service. If not, that may be answer enough for you. 

Looking for a Minneapolis builder? These might also be helpful…

Should You Build Your Next Home or Buy?

6 Frequently Ask Questions About Building a New Home

How To Add Character To Your New Construction Home

Best 25 Home Builders in Minneapolis, MN

Jenna Martindale
July 12, 2019

Choosing a Twin Cities Builder: Questions You Need To Ask

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